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Friday, March 7

What Is Wrong?

I knew what was wrong. It's something I read in the book about using excessive uptime with your staff. At some point you have to get downtime back. We were on the back of what had been a successful trip. I was on the other side of what had been an excessive night. There wasn't a great deal that could be done, except work through the day and not expect to make a grand leap forward on the project work.

Except... we were interviewing. We had three candidates. In no particular order, there was the one we hired (obviously good, and how good should not be the subject of this blog, but one could wax lyrical about a candidate that aces an interview). The other two included a rather laid back individual who clearly could talk the talk and could possibly have done a good job, but who knows and there was no urgency really. The final candidate was just bitterly awful. And here's a think. Such a person could, theoretically, earn about 20% more than I do in a year if they worked the average number of days a year that they should expect to work. Perhaps she would never reach that particular state - perhaps she doesn't get contracts. It's scary and eye-opening to interview someone like that.

Now, I'm an intellectual snob. I'm a dickhead. I'm a braggart. I'm a show-off. I'm lazy. I'm self-centred (read the other million words of this blog for evidence, or simply look at the word count). I'm solipsistic. In short, I'm someone who takes professional ability too seriously and fights to prove my own, fearing at the same time its obvious flaws. So, when I'm faced with someone who can't really do more than the basics, what do I do?

You could kick someone out after 5 minutes.

You could barrack someone, showing them that they're not worth the time to interview, let alone the money they want to charge.

You could question them to smithereens, breaking them down to show who's boss.

Or, you could try my "innocent until proven guilty" approach. I try to prove that the candidate has some ability in something. I try to find the one thing they can do. Maybe try to waft the wee sparks of ability to see if there's really a fire of skill under there. I give clues. I give positive feedback. I try to help them show me that they get it. In this case, it went far off. I was looking at my co-interviewer to see if I could spot, in his eyes, recognition - the look which says "I know what answer your question should get". He was reassuring, making me feel like I wasn't off on too much of a tangent.

After doing something I never do, namely stepping up to the whiteboard during an interview to draw half the answer, and then asking the candidate to complete it, I had pretty much done all I could do to buy this person some self-esteem. We knew before we started that she was a no. It was just a case of going through the motions so she felt she'd had a fair hearing. In the end, I told her what she seemed good at (I lied a little, but not too much) and explained why the role was about something that she needed more experience with. It was the first interview I've given where I told the candidate the verdict then and there. It was the fairest thing to do, I think. She knew it hadn't gone well, but we'd gotten the role into a more friendly examiner/teacher, than angry bank-manager scenario, so I hope she went home thinking she'd been given a fair shot and that she just wasn't suited to the role.

In my view, it was worse than that, but if she's the sort of person to Google me just to find out what I thought of her, then she's vain enough to need to learn that I was as kind as I could be with someone I wouldn't trust as a junion in a technology she claimed to be experienced in.

There was only one person we could hire for the role and they were hired. I was looking for help, not a warm body. I'm not sure I would even trust myself 100% to do the job I was looking to get done.

After a taxing day on a worn out body, I went over to see some colleagues to catch up on news across town. We caught up on progress and compared interview notes. There are some good interview ideas out there and we discussed how hard it is to get the right people. The conversation lasted until later than I planned and I had to abandon my thoughts of late night DIY and go instead for some supermarket action, followed by getting some sleep.

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